Capturing all the rueful irony and racial ambivalence of small-town Mississippi in the late 1950s, Melinda Haynes' celebrated novel is a wholly unforgettable exploration of family, identity, and redemption. Mother of Pearl revolves around twenty-eight-year-old Even Grade, a black man who grew up an orphan, and Valuable Korner, the fifteen-year-old white daughter of the town whore and an unknown father. Both are passionately determined to discover the precious things neither experienced as children: human connection, enduring commitment, and, above all, unconditional love. A startlingly accomplished mixture of beauty, mystery, and tragedy, Mother of Pearl marks the debut of an extraordinary literary talent.
About the Author
Melinda Haynes grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. A painter for most of her life, she now writes full time from her home in Grand Bay, Alabama, where she is working on her second novel. She lives with her husband, Ray, and an adopted greyhound, Elaine. Mother of Pearl is her first novel.
author of Beach Music
A first novel of immense and staggering power. Something absolutely wonderful is going on here and it might be the surprise one feels encountering greatness.
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
Haynes is the real thing, a true artist, a genuine writer, and, in this book at least, a genius....Her characters live (do they ever) and Mother of Pearl transports us to the wilds of a different world.
Booklist (starred review)
Both richly humorous and deeply tragic, this story leaves one wiser, and makes one understand something meaningful and important about life and human nature. Haynes speaks the truth in a story that is astonishingly powerful.
Memorable...Less a portrait of the South in the 1950s and more a tale about how necessity forces people to create bonds outside their own blood...Haynes works boldly with this large and eccentric cast...her prose has a rugged, muscular quality that is highly expressive and constantly surprising.
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Like William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor before her, Melinda Haynes recognizes that Southern culture has a lush affinity with the elements of classical tragedy...A pleasure to witness.
The New York Times Book Review
Welcome to Petal, Mississippi, a real place on the map, but in Melinda Haynes' first novel, a fictional one as entangling as kudzu. In language as profuse and vigorous as that Southern vine, Haynes tells the story of Valuable Korner, a fatherless girl named after a real estate sign....A heart-thumper.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In prose both rugged and beautiful, Haynes plumbs the secrets of the South in her stunning debut novel...She is fearless in portraying her characters' flaws, their pettiness and racism, their erring thoughts, but she's also merciful, letting them grow and change during the course of the narrative...This wise, luminous novel demonstrates her great gifts for language, courageous storytelling, and compassion.
author of Owning Jolene
Mother of Pearl is a monumental novel set in the noble-speaking backcountry of Faulkner's Mississippi. In a luminous voice, original and true, Melinda Haynes tells the story, straight as a tree and deep as a pond, of the savage miseries and saving graces of the past and present in the Deep South. This is an unforgettable, heart-bending book.